Archive for the 'truths' Category

24
May
13

Really needing some stamps

Several years ago Jesus gave me a promise in regards to our family living on financial support. It was during a group prayer time where we had been asked to write Jesus a letter. Instead he completely turned things upside down, and showed me that the letter that he wanted me to put inside the envelope that we had been given was a letter from him. The letter is us as a family, and the message in the letter is one of honesty, hope, forgiveness and love.

He impressed on me to just write ‘God’ as the sender of the letter, and then I attached a permanent marker and a pencil to the envelope and left it on a chair. What Jesus had invited me to was to allow him to decide how the receiving address of the letter was going to be written. It is his business whether he writes the address with a pencil, so it can be easily and more frequently changed, or if he wants us to be in some location for a long time where he would write the address of the letter with a Sharpie permanent marker.

The symbolism was simple and beautiful, and I heard very clearly in my spirit: “And I will pay the postage!”

Jesus will pay the postage. That’s been our promise that we’ve been clinging to ever since I heard those words from Jesus 5 years ago. We have gone through many challenging situations financially, and he has always been true to his promise. But let’s face it….right now we could really use some more stamps!

I’ve been working on, alongside many other projects that require my attention, a major support raising campaign. Let’s be honest, so far where I’m almost done with it, it’s been hugely discouraging. We really need more monthly support to be able to continue doing what we know Jesus has called us to do. We have received some gifts towards our moving expenses this summer, and we are extremely grateful for those! But as far as monthly gift pledges, we have to accept that right now we are looking at a minus of at least $210. Yep, that was $210 less each month…..

Jesus, we just choose to quietly remind you of your promise. You will pay the postage!

A song I was just reminded of as my thoughts and feelings experience lots of turmoil:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4DgESWtCus

And a classic by Rich Mullins, sung by Big Daddy Weave:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOon2xQNZX0

Torben

14
May
13

Death, sorrow, baby einstein, sundresses and hope

In the midst of reading about an abortion doctor crushing innocent babies because their parents decided that the babies were an inconvenience, and thinking about lots of personal and family related problems that require much attention, prayers and miracles, I was sitting on a public bus going through the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark with tears in my eyes. Tears of pain. Tears of anger. Tears of frustration. But also tears of hope. My iPod was playing a song that seemed so out of touch with what I was thinking about, Steven Curtis Chapman’s Our God Is In Control from his majestic album, Beauty Will Rise. God is in control? Really?

As I sat there and pondered this, a beautiful 5-year old girl smiled at me. I had noticed her running to catch the bus with her dad who looked like he had the day off. They made it, and the little girl in a flowery dress was beaming with pride when she walked through the bus and found two available seats. They sat and talked, and got off at the center of the city, ready to explore. She smiled at me, jumped down from the bus, and walked happily away with her daddy. Just the way life should be.

Early this morning Marcus and I were watching a Baby Einstein DVD about colors while eating breakfast together, and my 15-month-old son got very excited when the color yellow was presented with a picture of a field filled with yellow, perfect daffodils. He was so happy. So out of touch with everything that was going on in his daddy’s head. He came with books and toys for us to play with. Laughing, smiling, ready for a new day.

“This is not how it should be. This is not how it could be. Our God is in control. This is not how it will be. When we finally will see. We’ll see with our own eyes. He was always in control”, the song was playing in my ears. It’s true. This isn’t how it should be. Death, disease, pain, lack of finances to pay for health insurance, fear of losing your job, intense loneliness, fear of going through life all alone and depression. None of this was part of the original package. Sin, destruction and death entered the world. And it’s so easy to be swallowed up by the existential hopelessness that is our lot if we don’t know God. If we don’t know someone who is in control. In control even when it sure doesn’t look like he is.

The little girl is right. Marcus was right. Life is good. Yellow is a wonderful color. A day out with daddy is wonderful. It’s epic. It’s eternal. It’s what will last. Yellow daffodils will last. Death and sorrow will wither and pass away. Wearing a sundress with daddy and laughing at his old jokes won’t.

And life is found in the midst of this tension. The tension between aggressive diseases, unbelievable cruelty, loneliness, shipwrecked marriages and daffodils, teddy bears, sundresses and wonderful, patient dads. Hope and light is breaking through. Jesus is real in the midst of this mess we call life.

Torben

20
Oct
12

Sexologist with deep understanding of marriage problems!

All truth is God’s truth. So it’s not a major surprise that some of God’s created beings who (probably) don’t know him personally can muster up a grain of truth once in a while. And yet, it did catch me by surprise when I read what famed (in Denmark) sexologist Joan Ørting said under the headline “Why everyone gets divorced these days” (the article is in Danish). Of course you could start by objecting that not everybody gets divorced, even though obviously the number of divorces is staggering. But anyway, the answer from the sexologist was to my surprise both clear and true.
Ørting claims that the reason so many people get divorced these days is that people don’t know how to love themselves! She explains that we haven’t learned how to love ourselves, and then in marriage, we’re just somehow supposed to know how to do that. She adds that if we don’t love ourselves, we’re greedy and needy for attention from everybody around us, and especially from our spouses.
Wow…that’s deep for a secular sexologist! Her answer to this problem is shallow and irrelevant, as she claims that all you have to do to fix this problem of not loving yourself is just standing in front of the mirror and tell yourself: “I love you” until you believe it. Yeah, if only it was that easy to fix 🙂

Anyway, encouraging to see such a truth-analysis of one of the major reasons for the break-down of marriages and families. Jesus told his followers “love your neighbor as yourself“. It’s something that most believers and even most people who never attend church have heard numerous times. To the point where we don’t hear what Jesus is really saying. It’s a huge challenge. To love myself doesn’t come easy to most people. I would dare to say that real love and self-acceptance with the good, the bad, and the ugly I see in myself is extremely rare to come across. Sure, lots of people live with a puffed up self-image where they pretend that they are God’s greatest gift to mankind, and we can end up equating that with a healthy self-concept and a healthy love for themselves. But living a lie of pretending doesn’t answer the deeper cries of the heart of learning how to love ourselves.

These days most churches focus A LOT on loving other people. There is a huge focus in most modern, evangelical churches to reach people. (Unfortunately, the focus isn’t so much on actually telling people about who Jesus is and what he has done and wants to do in peoples’ lives, but that’s a soap box issue for another entry). Nonetheless, there is a massive emphasis on loving other people. Washing their bikes, cleaning gardens, helping in prisons, building buildings, staffing orphanages. All great things, but (and the truth always comes after the ‘but’), if all the people involved in all of these good things, don’t do them from a place of loving and accepting themselves, we’re actually not doing what Jesus wanted us to do!

Jesus agrees with sexologist Joan Ørting in so far as if we don’t love ourselves, we end up as attention-grabbing, needy people who need other people to tell us that we’re okay in a never-ending quest to feel good (enough) about ourselves. That’s unfortunately also often the reason why believers sign up for service at their local church or on the missions field. I’ve met many people, and I was one of them at a point in my life, who need to be in missions to feel needed and wanted. It makes you feel loved. But…it’s a very empty feeling, and you end up desperately running from project to project or relationship to relationship trying to get your love tank filled. But it won’t ever be filled, as long as you don’t love and accept yourself.

Henri Nouwen put it this way: “Self-rejection is the single greatest enemy of spiritual life, because it contradicts the voice that calls us the Beloved“. I agree whole-heartedly with Nouwen. I’ve counseled countless individuals and couples, and time and time again we’ve zeroed in on Jesus’ simple words: love your neighbor AS YOURSELF!

If I don’t embrace and accept Jesus’ unconditional acceptance and love for me, there is no way to live in a proper place of self-love and self-acceptance. That’s the key. Without finding the answer to the inner neediness in Jesus, there is no answer. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, and unfortunately most pastors and most books talk very little about it. It’s as if it’s commonly understood that we love ourselves already. When in fact the truth is very different.

Blessings, Torben

06
Oct
11

more talk about sex

For some reason I seem to be stumbling on some very interesting articles about (premarital) sex these days. Here is another one from Relevant Magazine where the author makes some very good points about the danger of premarital sex. An article that starts out with the wonderful statement: “Sex is awesome!”, and then it goes on to explain some of (many) reasons why sex outside of marriage is not so….awesome.

My favorite portion of the article is right here:

“Sex covers relationship flaws. No matter what you call it, that season before marriage is a really important time in your life. It is the coming together of two people in an effort to know and be known. It is a trial period, in which you are pursuing compatibility and connection in hopes of a lifelong commitment. That is some serious stuff. As exciting and exhilarating as this season can be, it’s also loaded with pressure. But you see, pressure can be a very good thing.

The best analogy I’ve heard regarding this topic is from a book by P. Roger Hillerstrom. He parallels a couple’s relationship before marriage to a steam pipe. The role of this pipe is to transport pressure. Many times, these pipes are prone to cracks and imperfections. When pressure builds, it allows these cracks and imperfections to be revealed and ultimately repaired. But when the pressure is released prematurely … the pressure doesn’t build, and the cracks are never found, nor repaired. As Hillerstrom says, “Eventually, they will corrode and destroy the pipe.”

The truth is, every relationship must go through a series of healthy pressures to discover what it’s really made of. Family of origin issues, expectations, roles, personality differences … the list goes on and on. Communication is the key to discovering and working through these pressures. As a professional counselor, I can’t stress enough the importance of building a marriage on healthy communication. The problem with sex outside of marriage is that it allows for “pressure” to be released through the avenue of the physical rather than by the foundational structure of communication.  

Problems and flaws are never discovered … until it’s too late and the damage has completely destroyed what could have been an indestructible match.”

Spot on! Read the rest of the article for yourself and see what you think.

It did hit me as I read the comments regarding this article, and the other article about premarital sex that I wrote about earlier that some people have developed some very interesting thoughts about God. Several people commenting on both articles who call themselves believers are saying that A) they don’t feel any guilt or regrets about having had sex outside of marriage, and B) their relationship with God improved after having had sex outside of marriage…! The first one I had heard before, and while I don’t believe it to be true, and it’s definitely not the cause for ANY of the many people I’ve counseled the last three years, it sounds at least a tiny bit more likely than the second statement. It is indeed a very small god that fits what they like. Sure thing, God is going to bless us with an overwhelming sense of peace, joy and love, when we directly go against his will and what the Holy Spirit who lives inside of each believer tells us brings death to us………..Hmmm…no!

Sometimes God must be at least somewhat surprised of what comes out of the mouths and keyboards of his children.

Anyway, time to eat an orange.

Blessings, Torben

03
Sep
11

this is who i am

What a beautiful song about the truth about who I am!

Blessings, Torben

02
Aug
11

Heaven, the New Earth – enough with all the Hell-talk!

I guess it’s about time for me to write a blog about the Good News about eternity. A couple of my blog entries have focused on a couple of books, Love Wins and Erasing Hell, that talk a lot about issues of eternity.

I also picked up Randy Alcorn’s 500+ page book, Heaven, to see what he would be writing about what I have to look forward to. It’s a long book. A very long book in fact. I wanted to just put in some of the important quotes that I enjoyed and was encouraged by through reading this mammoth of a book.

 

“Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity is an unending church service…We have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky, one great hymn after the another, forever and ever, amen. And our heart sinks. Forever and ever? That’s it? That’s the good news? And then we sigh and feel guilty that we are not more ‘spiritual’. We lose heart, and we turn once more to the present to find what life we can” (John Eldredge in his book Desire, where he talks about eternal life with Christ being a lot more than what most Christians dare to believe)

“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were preoccupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven, and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither” (C. S. Lewis)

“God will make the new earth his dwelling place…Heaven and earth will then no longer be separated as they are now, but they will be one. But to leave the new earth out of consideration when we think of the final state of believers is greatly to impoverish biblical teaching about the life to come” (Anthony Hoekema)

“Understanding and anticipating the physical nature of the New Earth corrects a multitude of errors. It frees us to love the world that God has made, without guilt, while saying no to the world corrupted by our sin. It reminds us that God himself gave us the earth, gave us a love for the earth, and will delight to give us the New Earth” (Randy Alcorn)

“In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not” (C. S. Lewis)

“Everything is gone that ever made Jerusalem, like all cities, torn apart, dangerous, heartbreaking, seamy. You walk the streets in peace now. Small children play unattended in the parks. No stranger goes by whom you can’t imagine a fast friend. The city has become what those who loved it always dreamed and what in their dreams she always was. The new Jerusalem. That seems to be the secret of Heaven. The new Chicago, Leningrad, Hiroshima, Beirut. The new bus driver, hot-dog man, seamstress, hairdresser. The new you, me, everybody” (Frederick Buechner)

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating” (Simone Weil)

“I meet many faithful Christians who, in spite of their faith, are deeply disappointed in how their lives have turned out. Much of the distress of these good people comes from a failure to realize that their life lies before them. That they are coming to the end of their present life, life in the body is of little significance. What is of significance is the kind of person they have become. Circumstances and other people are not in control of an individual’s character or of the life that lies endlessly before us in the kingdom of God” (Dallas Willard)

These were lots of different quotes talking about eternal life on the New Earth with my friend Jesus and many, many other friends! I can’t wait! I know some Christians who don’t look forward to life on the New Earth. Maybe they think we’ll be in some weird, boring place? Maybe they are afraid they’ll miss out on something here on the Earth? I don’t understand them. Whether my life is great and I enjoy my everyday situation, or whether I’m walking through a difficult time in my life, one thing remains the same in me: my desire to experience the New Earth with Jesus! My desire to be completely free from my flesh. My desire to reconnect with loved ones and experience life to the fullest for all eternity! To quote the late, great Keith Green:

You know, I look around at the world and I see all the beauty that God made. I see the forest and the trees and all the things. And says in the Bible that He made them is six days and I don’t know if they’re a literal six days or not. Scientists would say no, some theologians would say yes. But I know that Jesus Christ has been preparing a home for me and for some of you, for two thousand years. And if the world took six days and that home two thousand years, hey man, this is like living in a garbage can compared to what’s going on up there.

And I conclude this blog entry with some of the last words of the Bible, written by John, the disciple Jesus loved, who ended the Revelation God gave him like this:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon”. Amen, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22)

 

Blessings, Torben

02
Aug
11

erasing hell review

I promised to write a review of Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell. I shall keep my promise, even though I don’t feel like writing about it. I just returned from a trip to Nigeria, where I had the privilege of speaking to approximately 80 pastors and leaders in two different leadership conferences about Christ-formed Leadership. I greatly enjoyed this second trip to the wonderful country of Nigeria, and I couldn’t help but noticing the difference between the Nigerian believers’ attitude towards the Word of God compared to the climate we have in many evangelical circles in the Western world today, which makes Love Wins a book that can confuse people and cause many believers to start believing things they  wouldn’t believe if they knew their Bibles very well.

The Nigerians we met love God, know and understand the importance of encountering God – through his Word, through him speaking directly to them, through nature, through whatever..! But they understand a piece of truth that so many have lost in 2011: God will never ever reveal something or speak something that will contradict what’s already written in the Bible! We are all called to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who searched the Scriptures, and examined what Paul was saying to them to see if it was true or not.

I loved that the Nigerian pastors and leaders kept asking us questions from the Bible. I loved that they would ask questions when we taught something that seemed to contradict what they know from the Bible. And I loved that they were open and teachable to allow God’s Spirit to show them new realities, truths and bring them to a greater degree of freedom.

Enough about the Nigerian believers, and back to Francis Chan’s book. I guess there is not that much to say. It’s a good, short, well-written book that clearly spells out what the Bible teaches about Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Chan writes from a position of humility. He is not out to attack anyone who might disagree with him. He is not on a crusade to hurt anyone. But he loves God enough and respects his authority to allow him to have the final say about what will happen eternally with people on Planet Earth, he is the creator of all things and all people after all. Chan writes with pain about the many people who will end up in Hell. Chan echoes the pain of C. S. Lewis who wrote this in The Problem of Pain:

There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this (the doctrine of Hell), if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of our Lord’s own words

I share his pain. And so does every other soft-hearted believer. No-one, if they truly know Jesus Christ, will rejoice in the fact that evil will have eternal consequences. It’s by no means a pleasant thought. In fact it’s tremendously unsettling, but as Francis Chan keeps saying in Erasing Hell: we simply cannot afford to be wrong about what we believe about Heaven and Hell and who will end up where. We have to ask God, and we have to be open to listen to his revelation about those realities. And then we are to go and be the vessels that Jesus will love people through and bring them to himself. Not just for salvation, even though that’s obviously the main point of this book, but also for Life – life today, and life forever more!

I appreciate Francis Chan’s effort to write this book in a humble, pastoral way. He obviously cares for people. I felt cared for and pastored through reading it.

I pray that we as believers will see more of the truth of who God is, and what he has done for all people. Jesus hung on the cross and cried out: “It is finished!”. It is finished. Salvation is available. And Jesus wants to tell other people about this miracle through us. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is not something for us as believers to do. It’s something Jesus is doing through us.

And as I was finishing up reading Erasing Hell, I was, once again, reminded of the verse from Romans 2:14 that talks about that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. God’s kindness. Not his wrath. Not his judgment. I hope that’s what people see when they look at my life. The kindness of God.

I definitely saw kindness in Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell despite the difficult nature of the topics discussed in the book.

Blessings, Torben




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